Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


2016-2017 Common Application Essay Prompts

2016-2017 Common Application Essay PromptsThe news is in!

The Common Application personal statement essay prompts for 2016-2017 will be the same as last year.

Juniors: This absolutely doesn’t mean you have to amp up the stress and start writing in February. But start brainstorming, and when you have time to write you’ll have lots of ideas.

Common App essay requirements:

  • You answer one of five prompts.
  • The maximum essay length is 650 words.

Here are the 2016-2017 Common Application Essay Prompts:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

 College Essay Writing helpInteresting Stats from Last Year’s Applications:

  • More than 800,000 applicants submitted a Common Application
  • 47 percent chose to write about their background, identity, interest, or talent – making it the most frequently selected prompt
  • 22 percent wrote about an accomplishment
  • 17 percent wrote about a lesson or failure
  • 10 percent wrote about a problem solved
  • 4 percent wrote about an idea they challenged

For more information, go to Common Application website or The Common App’s Facebook page

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing insights, question by question, to help students understand, think about, and write outstanding college application essays.


Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.